Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4, 14 July 2012
Set over a decade between 1968 and 1978, Betrayal follows the progress
of a love-affair between Jerry (Andrew Scott) and Emma (Andrew Scott). Initially they believe that Emma's husband Robert (Charles
Edwards) does not know anything about it, but discover to their cost that he has known all along, but chooses not to react.
What makes Betrayal so interesting, however, is that the narrative unfolds in reverse, beginning in 1978 and moving
backwards in time to the moment when Jerry and Emma were first attracted to one another - on Emma and Robert's wedding-night,
in fact, when Jerry was Robert's "best" man.
At one level, Gaynor Macfarlane's production examined the different ways in which the characters reacted to the affair.
For Jerry it is nothing more than a dalliance - a respite between multiple trips to New York on business and the daily
grind of looking after his family. For Emma it represents something more permanent; the two of them rent a love-nest in Kilburn,
and Emma spends a lot of time and energy trying to furnish it, bringing back a bedspread from Venice for that purpose.
As the production unfolded, however, so we came to understand the complex power relationships underlying this love-triangle.
Scott's Jerry embarked on the love-affair out of pure self-interest; taking little or no notice of Emma's protestations. he
embraced her passionately on her wedding-night. When Robert comes into the room unexpectedly, Jerry coughed slightly and protested
that he was doing nothing more than congratulating her on her good fortune. Scott delivered Pinter's lines in sardonic
tones, emphasizing how little he actually cared for Emma.
Edwards' Robert might have been expected to be the innocent victim; but we soon realized how strong a character
he actually was. By refusing to act on the affair, he actually became more and more powerful; although claiming to be Jerry's
best friend, he actually treated him with contempt. Hence Robert's desire to keep the marriage going; the more he
did so, the more Jerry became an outsider, both literally and psychologically.
While Colman's Emma willingly entered into the affair, it became more and more evident that she was actually
the victim of the male characters' scheming. Despite his protestations of love, Jerry never really cared for her, while Robert
expected her to fulfill her wifely duties at home and in bed - no more, no less. We ended up feeling very sorry
for her; it seemed that she had little power of self-determination in a patriarchal world.
Betrayal came across as a brutal piece of work, where the characters either wouldn't or couldn't say what they
actually meant. Beneath the conversational pleasantries there lurked fierce passions, but that passion actually found its
expression in wilful manipulation. Perhaps that is why we felt so sorry for Emma; perhaps the most passionate of the three
protagonists, she was also the weakest.